In Children of Crisis, Coles (23) asks whether many of us understand what a new child means to many of our poverty-stricken mothers, to the men in their lives, and to their other children. To further our understanding, he cites the following very dramatic and articulate account by a black mother:
The worst of it is that they try to get you to plan your kids by the year; except they mean by the ten-year plan, one every ten years. The truth is, they don't want you to have any, if they could help it. To me, having a baby inside me is the only time I'm really alive. I know I can make something, do something, no matter what color my skin is, and what names people call me. When the baby gets born I see him, and he's full of life, or she is; and I think to myself that it doesn't make any difference what happens later, at least now we've got a chance, or the baby does. You can see the little one grow and get larger and start doing things, and you feel there must be some hope, some chance that things will get better; because there it is, right before you, a real, live, growing baby. The children and their father feel it, too, just like I do. They feel the baby is a good sign, or at least he's some sign. If we didn't have that, what would be the difference from death? Even without children my life would still be badóthey're not going to give us what they have, the birth control people. They just want us to be a poor version of them only without our children and our faith in God and our tasty fried food, or anything.
They'll tell you we are "neglectful"; we don't take proper care of the children. But that's a lie, because we do, until we can't any longer because the time has come for the street to claim them, to take them away and teach them what a poor nigger's life is like. I don't care what anyone says: I take the best care of my children. I scream the ten commandments at them every day, until one by one they learn them by heartóand believe me they don't forget them. (You can ask my minister if I'm not telling the truth.) It's when they leave for school, and start seeing the streets and everything, that's when there's the change; and by the time they're ten or so, it's all I can do to say anything, because I don't believe my own words, to be honest. I tell them, please to be good; but I know it's no use, not when they can't get a fair break, and there are the sheriffs down South and up here the policemen, ready to kick you for so much as breathing your feelings. So I turn my eyes on the little children, and keep on praying that one of them will grow up at the right second, when the schoolteachers have time to say hello and given him the lessons that he needs, and when they get rid of the building here and let us have a place you can breathe in and not get bitten all the time, and when the men can find workóbecause they can't have children, and so they have to drink or get on drugs to find some happy moments, and some hope about things.
This graphic description of the feelings of one poverty-stricken mother underlines the claims of distributive justice. In any population policy, attention must be given to the problem of poverty-not so much because the poor have relatively high birth rates but rather because the conditions under which